In the Beginning
If you happened to be one of the fortunate few who got a sticker, visited Kotse.com, and became an active member, congratulations are in order. You were one of the lucky few who had the luxury of internet access thru dial-up internet service providers back then. More importantly, you are one of the elite pioneers of online forum-based car enthusiasts who helped shape and make the local auto scene what it is today. That's right, you helped make history.
I first logged on to Kotse.com some time in late 1998 or early 1999. What I found was a page with headlines highlighting some of the more relevant and interesting automotive happenings for the week. There were also links leading to a gallery for members to share photos and a forum where site visitors could interact, exchange opinions, seek advice, and share info with everyone else. Back then, the forum was simply subdivided into only a few sections: General Car Talk, Audio, Racing Modifications, Formula 1, Swap Meet, a special automotive Q&A section tended by Mang Bitoy, and Everything Else Under the Sun. Or at least, that's how I remember it to be.
The Great Forum History
Digging up internet resources reveals that Kotse.com first went online on September 23, 1998, making it the Philippines' first and longest-running online automotive resource site. It was then followed by MotionCars.com a few months after, while Autoindustriya.com came about two years later, and Tsikot.com by another two years.
I still recall seeing a couple of brand-specific car clubs congregating in the forums of Kotse.com. One of them was Nissanbayan, which gained a decent amount of its members thru Kotse. There I met Mike Black, who would eventually become Editor-in-Chief of Top Gear Philippines (TGP) until 2006, and Chuck Kim, who also joined TGP as a photographer before he passed away. The club is currently in hiatus after it spun off into other more Nissan model-specific car clubs.
Then, there was ClubMitsu.com. Their very first EB was held at the parking lot of Shangri-la Mall in Mandaluyong City, to which I was a party to. There I met Arlan Reyes and Froilan Dytianquin of Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. (MMPC) - both of whom are, interestingly, some of the few people I've met that work in the automotive industry that were also true car enthusiasts. At subsequent EB's, I came to know Rufi Parpan, Botchi Santos, and Sidney Ang, amongst others. Rufi and Botchi are some of the pioneer writers for TGP, while Sidney Ang eventually became my business partner at Speedlab and now contributes to C! Magazine.
One that's a bit closer to my heart is Honda Club of the Philippines (HCP). Being able to help founding President Carlo de Guzman form the club, I still remember HCP's very first EB held at Greenhill's parking lot across Unimart. There were about 10 people who showed up, most of which remain to be my close friends to this day. Interestingly, HCP is the only car club that I know of that has successfully branched out into Honda-specific car clubs, and could be the only, and possibly the oldest local car club formed online that's still intact and growing ever since. Carlo is now an active member of the triathlon community and the webmaster for Swimbikerun.ph.
Other car clubs in Kotse.com back then were Protegetech, which has since evolved into Mazdatech, Toyota Auto Club Philippines (TACP), BMW Car Club of the Philippines, and the Formula 1 Club of the Philippines. There was also Kotse Audio Club (KAC), formed by members Carl and Chad Trocio inside Kotse.com's sub-forums, but has since branched out into their own website.
Highs and Lows
Kotse.com grew in great proportions in its first few years. And to celebrate its 3rd year anniversary, Kotse.com held the first-ever multi-car club gathering dubbed as “3, 2, 1, Go!” at Pier One, Fort Strip in Bonifacio Global City. It was a gathering of car owners and enthusiasts alike from all walks of life. It was also an opportunity to put faces on people they've only met online. But the highlight of the night was the “Bring Your Best Bakal” mini car show, wherein each of the clubs put their best member's pride and joy on display. That was, quite frankly, an unparalleled event, shadowing even the best of the current day enthusiast-organized car shows.
However, with success comes envy, particularly at a time when hackers and viruses were yet considered as a real concern, and no one really knew how to deal with them.
Malicious entities took notice, and Kotse.com's site was hacked by unknown criminals that hid behind the anonymity of the world wide web. The site bogged down with what today is known as Denial Of Service (DoS) attacks. Eventually, it became impossible to visit the site without the risk virus infection. If memory serves me right, Kotse.com had a user base that numbered in the tens of thousands (which was huge back in 2001) - all lost in just a few months.
About this time, a new site spun off doing a word play on Kotse. Tsikot.com was formed and those Kotse.com users who weren't willing to put up with the site's problems migrated.
It's 2012 and Kotse.com has evolved with a stronger than ever content team and a steadily-growing user base that's now more interested to read about about news, test drives, and special features. There are also more relevant advertisers who see the value in supporting what Kotse.com does and its contributions to the automotive industry. Stepping back from it all, I'm wondering what the next 14 years or so will be like.
A Callout to Members Past
This is my callout, Auto_Xer, to the list of pioneer members of Kotse.Com that I and some others still remembe. Apologies to the one's I've forgotten, age does have its disadvantages. If you were there, add your name to the list and perhaps your bit of history at Kotse.com's forums. Let us know it touched your life by clicking here.
So in no particular order: 190e; ACSchnitzer; Aewagon; Al_Motor; Alfalfamiester; Alien; Andy; Bibendum; Black Sentra; Brent; Boc; Bolthead; Botchi; c@rlo; Calif; ch@d; Enigmazutapia; ERL919; Eug; Fried Rice Boy; Ghosthunter; Gilbert; Gurlygurlracer; HBoy; Hesperus; IanVW; IS2000; ItchyWitch; Jacob; Jaywalker; JeffMD; Kamote; Mark; Markorolla; Motegi; Ninababy; Odievti; Otep; Pekekek; Protege98; R_Toyz; Ricecooker; Rockman; RS Sprint; Sentra Monk; Sids; Spectre; Splerdu; Supafly; Tomsrolla; Toyoboy; Tris; Tynee28; Venividivici; ZXT.